Wednesday 27 February 2019

Always and forever

As the weather continued to play nicely, we were determined to make the most of these probably short-lived days.

I had a mid-week holiday two weeks ago, courtesy of a general strike here in Belgium. As public transport would be erratic that day, I decided not to take any chances and take the day off.

Jos was in need of some new pairs of trousers and, as the menswear rails in the charity shops are generally pretty dire, I took him retail shopping. Being mid-week, we had the shop virtually to ourselves, and I managed to persuade him to not only buy three well-needed pairs of trousers, but two snazzy shirts and a belt on top. Result!

It was in no way intentional, but I was wearing retail myself that day. I'm talking about this gorgeous plum coloured midi dress, which I grabbed in the sales back in January.

It came with a tie belt but, being me, I replaced it with a moss green belt from my collection, while I pinned a brooch with a green centre to its crossover neckline.

I added a charity shopped green Tweed blazer and fluffy sugar pink scarf on top.

I wore the dress again for work later than week, when I replaced the Tweed jacket with one of my favourites, my vintage green wool, fur-collared jacket.

My lunch break was spent having coffee with my friend Inez, after which I accompanied her to a shoe shop where she tried on and ultimately bought a pair of pink trainers.

Meanwhile, I decided to take a nap on one of the shop's generously proportioned shoe fitting stools.

Skipping Saturday, when we went to the flea market which I already told you in my last post, I'm swiftly moving on to Sunday.

It was another gloriously sunny day which had all the characteristics of an early Spring day.

One by one, the little daffodils which have been overwintering in our window box are opening their frilly trumpeted flowers while, right outside our backdoor, the diminutive Sarcococca flowers are seducing us with their heavenly scent.

Feeling a bit lazy-limbed, we decided against a longer walk, opting for a short stroll in the park instead.

The park in question is in a neighbouring village and used to be the garden belonging to a manor house, its landscaping inspired by Capability Brown.

Teal and brown were the main colours of my outfit, but the rich burgundy of my handbag and the deep aubergine of my hat provided additional pops of colour.

The air was rich with the fragrance of the sun-warmed layer of decaying leaves and soil, and invisible birds of various plumage could be heard rehearsing their Spring calls in the towering trees.

There's an old ice house with a gazebo on top, which can be reached by a narrow winding path which spirals around the mound containing the ice house, which is partly hidden behind an insulating barrier of yew hedges.

When we were last here, back in November, the thicket of yew was so dense that we could hardly make out the gazebo, which we happened upon by chance.

Reminding me of Sleeping Beauty's castle, it could have been the castle's last vestige before being swallowed by briar and bramble.

Even if the park isn't that large, we couldn't remember its exact location until, rounding a corner, Jos suddenly spotted the gazebo on its little knoll.

Climbing to the top, we had a bird's eye view of the park, with the white stuccoed manor house in the distance. This has been much modernized and turned into a hotel, losing much of its charm in the process.

The gazebo's gnarled and graffitied pillars were a whimsical backdrop for more outfit photos.

It was warm enough to briefly peel off layers, making use of one of the pillar's knobbly ridges to hang up my coat and subsequently my mustard coloured cardie with its teal buttons.

The Crimplene dress I'm wearing underneath made its first appearance here on my blog in one of my very first posts.

I wore it on a day which could almost have been a carbon copy of today's, if it weren't for the fact that it was the middle of March instead of the middle of February.

At my waist, a cream textured belt featuring a tiny dangling fish. The belt was was charity shopped, while both the beaded necklace and the brooch I pinned to my collar were flea market finds. The latter came from Carmarthen Flea Market, which we visited back in June 2015.

You might have noticed my pearly plastic ring? It actually started life as a green one, but one day the flimsy green upper layer started peeling off. Rather than binning it, I decided to finish the job and remove the layer completely, leaving a gorgeous pearly finish.

Birdsong continued to accompany us on our return walk.

Sitting down on a makeshift bench kindly provided by Mother Nature, we took time to stand, or rather, sit and stare, while soaking up the energizing rays of the sun.

And everywhere is the promise of new growth: of fresh green shoots and leaves and pussy willows.

Soon the barren soil will burst with Spring flowers, and carpets of delicate Crocuses, hoop-skirted Winter Aconites and gently nodding daffodils will appear as if out of nowhere.

This gentle giant of a tree knows this circle of life is as ancient as time itself, a mute witness to the changing seasons, year after year. Always and forever.

I'll be joining Jacqui's Chic and Stylish linkup this week.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Five dogs and a suitcase

After the endless string of gloomy days we've had in January and early February, it was an utter joy to finally have the sun come out to play in the week before last. If the mornings were chilly and bright, as the day progressed the temperature climbed to the lofty heights of about 15°C.

The sky was such an unaccustomed shade of blue that I decided to join in and wear a bit of sky blue too.

And yes, it was still just light enough for outfit photos when I got home!

The dress I wore on Friday has a sprinkling of white dots and flowers, a full pleated skirt perfect for a twirl or two and a neck tie.

Wearing yellow with it was almost mandatory, so I chose a yellow belt and opaques and pinned a yellow bird brooch to my dress's collar. The yellow cardigan I'd started out with had long been discarded, and I'm only wearing the vintage teal new wool jacket with its grey furry colour for the photos.

On Saturday we had a flea market to go to. We'd made a late start as some paperwork related to the sale of the parental home had to be signed.

Consequently, it was nearly lunch time when we finally set off, deciding to make outfit photos afterwards.

This turned out not to be the best decision, as by then our garden was bathing in dazzling sunlight, bleaching out my outfit's colours and giving my already pale face a ghostly translucency.

I picked up the pussy bow blouse with its magenta Paisley pattern for € 2 at Think Twice the other week. It's vintage St. Michael. I'm surprised the nylon it is made of didn't make me sweat, but then again it was quite chilly inside the flea market venue. However, the slipperiness of the fabric ensured that the blouse kept escaping from my skirt's waistband, even with the addition of the sturdy belt.

Putting this outfit together was a doddle, as I'd already decided on the green skirt, which was lurking in the depths of my wardrobe. The happy marriage of green and magenta made my heart sing!

I balanced out the equation by adding maroon opaques. These are Falke and came from a posh department store in Antwerp, which has an extensive collection of stockings and tights. Under normal circumstances, I hardly ever venture into this shop, but they are worth checking out at the tail end of the sales, when good quality opaques in unusual colours can be found for very reasonable prices.

I needed comfortable footwear which wouldn't pinch my feet or kill my back while trawling the flea market aisles, so I opted for these age-old tan ankle boots.

Tired of my Winter coats, I chose a green tweedy jacket I charity shopped last Autumn, adding a large brooch depicting a glamorous, green turbaned lady for good measure.

As you can see, I was wearing another lady brooch, this one wearing a feathered hat, at my throat. Only, it isn't a brooch but a scarf clip, which I'd used to secure the pussy bow.

My handbag of choice was this glorious tapestry covered one - I am such a sucker for them! - which looks a bit like an overgrown purse, and is big enough to carry my flea market essentials and more.

There were stalls a-plenty at the flea market and in spite of the gorgeous weather it was busier than usual, but we didn't seem to be in the right mood. Consequently, it took us longer than usual to make our first purchases.

Now, without further ado, here's a little group photo of what we came home with.

The vintage cheese grater (our old one recently died) and the deer ornament came from Ilona's stall. She's a flea market regular whom we have become friendly with over the years. I don't think we ever left her stall empty handed.

At a jewellery stall we usually avoid as we think its goods are rather overpriced, I was drawn to a box full of 1970s deadstock earrings. As my ears are no longer pierced, I was pleased to see there were many pairs of clip earrings, even dangly ones, so I bought 5 pairs for a total of € 10.

Funnily enough, only one brooch came home with me, but isn't this trio of doggies the cutest?

Speaking of dogs, I happened upon this tiny ceramic dog. Its head is a lid, and can be removed, but what is it? A little trinket box, perhaps? Anyway, he caught my attention as he reminded me of another ceramic dog we have. This one can do a little trick, which magically transforms him into a jug. So, I took the tiny one home, and lo and behold, they're like a reunited little family!

Our final buy was this magnificent vintage Lady Baltimore suitcase from Tania's stall, which is another one of our favourites. It's in pristine condition, inside and out, and even retains its matching label with the original owner's name and address pencilled in.

Not much actual information is found on the Internet about these suitcases and the company who produced them, but the Baltimore Luggage Co. registered the "Lady Baltimore" Trademark in 1954.

The luggage came in different sizes and colours, and are selling like hot cakes on eBay and various Etsy shops.

Mine dates from the early 1960s, as testified by these delightful ads. One thing is certain: I will travel in style!

At a rough guess, there must be at least a dozen suitcases at Dove Cottage, all picked up at charity shops and flea markets. They all serve their purpose as storage for out of season clothes and shoes, handbags, scarves, belts, Etc.

Then there's a stack of old brown suitcases. We used to look out for these, their common factor being that they have a wooden frame, a necessity to convert them into ... Barbie wardrobes!

I am storing all my vintage Barbie (and family) clothing sets in them and, organized as I am, they are all in plastic bags with the various accessories belonging to them, labelled with their names and stock numbers, the year they were issued and the page(s) of the reference book(s) where more information on them can be found.

Even if I've stopped actively collecting, my collection still gives me so much joy. But I do blame those dolls for wanting a vintage wardrobe of my own!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday and Mica's Weekday Wear Linkup!

Monday 18 February 2019

Cats and skirts

You might have noticed that I've been wearing a lot of skirts lately.  Well, I've got quite a selection of them in my wardrobe - some of them unworn! - and as I keep finding new ones at an alarming rate, I thought it was time I stopped neglecting them and give them an outing.

Remember the "curtain couture" skirt I bought back in December? It was the print which persuaded me to take it home, although I wasn't a fan of its rather shapeless cut and poor finish.

Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go last Friday. As the skirt isn't lined, I needed to wear a half slip underneath. I'm still not totally convinced, so it's currently in the naughty corner until I've made up my mind.

I shopped my wardrobe for this delightful blouse printed with orange tabby cats and then added some cat related accessories, even if the cats in question were of the bigger variety. Note the watch with its leopard print strap, and the Tiger's Eye pendant I picked up at last month's flea market.

My outfit was completed with a wide golden belt and a two-tone brown ring.

In spite of the symphony - or should that be cacophony - of cats I was wearing, I was fully expecting my limelight to be eclipsed by the real thing, as we were cat-sitting Abby that day. 

Abby is a British Shorthair, and her usual personnel, Jos's son and daughter-in-law, Kris and Carolien, were away for an overnight stay, leaving her on her own for the very first time.

Unlike Phoebe, she loves posing and, with her dense dove grey fur and amazing orange eyes, she has star quality in abundance. But make no mistake: she is quite a diva!

We'd planned to make use of the lofty proportions of Kris and Carolien's living room to take some outfit photos, but needless to say it turned into a full-on photo session starring the delightful Abby!

Aww, isn't she cute?

How could I possibly compete with that?

I was wearing chocolate brown boots, charity shopped last year (see close-up here) and wore a red, pink-edged, cardigan on top. I've included the brooch I pinned to it in the collage below.

Kris and Carolien's house has the kitchen/dining area on the ground floor, with the living room immediately above it on the first floor. There's a large panel of reinforced glass on the living room floor, through which the kitchen can be glimpsed. 

Having no head for heights, walking on the glass panel makes my legs turn to jelly, but Abby doesn't seem bothered by it in the least.

Now, let's make a little jump to Saturday!

Although I haven't worn it for ages, I've had the skirt I was wearing on Saturday for many years. It's a grey wool Paisley print A-line skirt with a single front pleat. Its label mentions a shop in Vienna.

Except for the tights, everything I'm wearing here was either charity shopped or picked up at flea markets. 

The ring was rescued from the bag of jewellery donated by my friend's daughter. I kept most of the rings as they are exactly my size for once. Having small hands and fingers, rings are often too big for me.

The cardigan, in confusing greens, blues and turquoises (for me, that is!), has a Paisley-esque print which I thought went well with the vibe of the skirt.

To tie in with Friday's cat theme, I added the big cat brooch which I found at December's flea market. Several people thought it was Erstwilder, and it uncannily does look like some of their designs but, not being marked, I'm pretty sure it's a rip-off.

Both the wide turquoise belt belt and the beaded necklace, originally from H&M, were charity shopped.  

I used to have the same necklace, bought retail many years before, but I sold it at the very first flea market we participated in, back in 2009.

Why ever I decided to get rid of it remains a mystery, but suffice to say I was glad to spot its sister on the charity shop's jewellery display a couple of months ago.

My outfit's final item is another one that's been in my wardrobe forever. This black Diolen blouse was one of my earliest Think Twice buys, and I've always been smitten with its print of stripes and flowers, which include splashes of light blue and turquoise.

Its got three-quarter length sleeves with slits at the cuffs and the most gorgeous pearly buttons which are hard to catch on camera.

This is the outfit I'm linking to Patti's Visible Monday  and Mica's Weekday Wear Linkup this week, although I was sorely tempted to link Abby!

Thursday 14 February 2019

Make me smile

As I'm working full time, my blog posts tend to concentrate on my weekend escapades and outfits.

This is especially true this time of year, when the lack of daylight prevents me from blogging about my day-to-day life or showing you any weekday outfits.

I'm also eternally strapped for time, so that more often than not I am blogging about things that happened one or even two weeks ago.

Take this outfit, for instance. I wore it on Saturday before last and, already having written about what we did on Sunday, I just had to backtrack and share these outfit photos, even if it messes with my timeline.

For fear of sounding like a broken record, it was another grey and rainy day. As it was quite chilly to boot, my purple fake fur (a.k.a. the Muppet coat) came out to play again.

I might have gone a bit wild with patterns and colours that day, but I desperately needed something to cheer me up and put a smile on my face, and this outfit just happened to fit the bill.

Here's to hoping it will put a smile on your face too!

This was my first wear of the psychedelic print skirt I picked up at Think Twice last month. Its polyester/wool blend is super soft to the touch and ensures that it is a joy to wear.

The mad, silver print on sea green tights were from a local shop. You can catch a glimpse of the purple socks I was wearing to keep my feet warm and toasty.

But I'll stop beating about the bush, as I'm sure you will have noticed by snakeskin print booties by now!

I bought them, together with another pair in pink suede, from New Look during one of my lunch breaks that week. All six of their Belgian shops have gone into liquidation and they were having a closing down sale, with their new collection going at half price.

They were definitely worth braving the huge queue at the till for.

The weather that week was the usual up-and-down affair, with a brief appearance of the sun one morning, bathing Antwerp's cathedral in a golden glow, and a dense fog obscuring most of its tower from view the next. 

The view of the cathedral from my office window is another thing that never fails to put a smile on my face, whatever the weather.

But I'm digressing, so let's get back to Saturday. 

Before I go ahead and show you what I was hiding beneath the Muppet coat, here's a look at the rest of my outerwear: a charity shopped Burberry beret in a rusty brown, my ancient green scarf and a pair of dark green leather gloves, which were a sales bargain.

I picked up the turquoise in the skirt (it might be green or even blue to you, but I'm slightly colour blind in that range, so I'm taking the safe option) by wearing a vintage blouse in the same colour.

It came from Blender Vintage Shop, which sadly is no longer trading. Don't you love its scalloped, flower petal collar? It's made of some sort of stretch crepe fabric, and it has tiny white dots, pearly buttons and a ribbon tie at the collar, which I accented with a brooch with a purple stone, again picking up one of the colours of the skirt.

A second brooch was pinned to the blouse's collar, this one featuring a portrait of a lady. Having a simple C clasp and a long pin, I'm guessing this is quite old.

More purple was added in the form of a charity shopped cardigan to which I pinned a third brooch, a gold tone bow with a mottled red and white stone.

Here are the other things that made me smile that week.

One morning, while I was on my way to the bus stop, I was captivated by the view of our local town hall. It has recently been re-opened after extensive building work. An extra floor, looking like a square box with windows all around, was put on top of the existing building. Needless to say, we are calling this contraption "the fish tank". That morning, it was all lit up, and it was looking quite spectacular, especially with the huge lit up figure which seems to be holding up the box.

The figure is the six metre high village giant called Contios, who was introduced in 2013. He's got movable limbs which enables him to be walked through the village streets at special events, and here he was part of the town hall's re-opening celebrations which took place last week.

I dare anyone not to smile at the sight of this brave little daffodil which unexpectedly reared its head in the flower box at our back window. 

Or at the sight of my flying duck skirt! I happened upon it in a charity shop last weekend. On closer inspection it turned out to be vintage Scapa of Scotland. And it has pockets as well!

Here I am wearing it with an old rust coloured jumper to which I couldn't resist pinning my wooden flying duck brooch. 

I shopped my wardrobe for the belt, and the brown owl ring used to belong to my friend's daughter Cynthia. She donated a bag full of jewellery for my flea market stall, but I rescued the things I liked for myself!

The ridiculously comfortable boots were charity shopped that same day. The leather is slightly worn, making them perfect for bad weather days. And the best thing is that they were only € 2.

Leaving the best news for last!

We have finally, finally put my parents' house up for sale last week and last Sunday we have accepted an offer, which means that it is as good as sold. Not bad at all after only a couple of day, and surely something else to smile about. 

Nevertheless, as this is the house I grew up in, it will be kind of bittersweet saying goodbye after all these years ...

But that will be for another post.